TODAY WE’RE GONNA TALK ABOUT BLOGGING!!!
Over the past year I’ve had a ton of people ask various and sundry questions about the craft, and, well… this is where the wicked glint comes into my eyes, and things devolve into ominous cackling.
Am I qualified to write this post? Have I been blogging for years, gained thousands of followers, and am a master at the pursuit? Hardly.
Yet I’m still writing it, and you’re still reading it, so here we go. Ten things I wish I knew when I started The Sarcastic Elf. Ten things I learned the hard way. Ten things you can spare yourself from.
(Read the sister post I did on writing here.)
1. This isn’t fun (so you better be dedicated)
Friends. I know how it goes. Right now, you think it’s fun. You think it’s easy, and you’re so inspired.
Friends. I see it in your eyes. You think it will always stay this way.
LEMME LEARN YOU A THING.
It will not be fun. You will not be inspired. Six months from now, you’ll be staring at a blank word document at 3 A.M. the night before your posting day, wondering why God has forsaken you.
Blogging is hard. Writing consistently every week is hard. Coming up with ideas consistently every week is hard. Marketing is hard. Answering comments is hard. Staying on schedule is hard. Growing a following is hard. Staying inspired is hard. BLOGGING IS HARD.
Is it worth it? Absolutely. Nothing matches the thrill of watching your platform grow, of meeting new people and making new friends and having someone tell you, “You make the internet a better place.”
But the fundamental core of blogging success, the absolute ground-zero where you start, is this: If you’re not dedicated, you will fail.
If you’re not ready to pull the late hours and beat your head into a wall every once in a while, then you might as well stop now. Sure, you can do this as a hobby; you can skip the heavy-lifting if you want to. But this is a blog. Not knitting or mowing the yard or painting your bedside table.
If you want results, you have to work for them. Period. End of subject. Kapeesh.
2. The “Brand” thing (it’s okay to not have one)
Ah yes, that vague and mysterious “brand,” that esoteric property everyone yells at us to have but doesn’t tell us how to get. Simply put, your brand is… well, the entirety of you. The genre of your blog. What you write about. How you write it. Your personal quirks. Blog aesthetics. The whole shebang. All of it wraps together and makes a blog uniquely yours.
(For instance, my brand is humor, slice-of-life, creativity, and a dash (probably more like a boatload) of Christianity peppering my weird and dumb ramblings. When people come to my blog, this is what they expect to find.)
Some people say that you absolutely must have a brand set in stone before you even think about blogging.
I… I disagree.
*and the crowd gasps*
When you start out, you know nothing. Absolutely nothing. Even if you think you know everything (*coughs* as in my case…), you really can’t know anything until you actually get out there in the bloggisphere and see how things work for yourself. You need time to learn how to be a good blogger. You need time to work out the kinks. You need time to establish who you are as an internet writer and what message you want your blog to send.
Even if you have a fairly good idea of all that now (or even if you have absolutely no clue), your brand will evolve as time goes on and you get better at what you do. Give yourself room to try things. Change your aesthetics three times a week. Write different genres of posts. Experiment with voice. Figure out what you really want to write about, and how to best write it. Don’t limit yourself to the box you started in.
3. Don’t reread your old posts.
“They can’t be that bad,” you say after several years of blogging. “I just want to indulge in some nostalgia!”
Don’t do it. Stay strong. Don’t. DON’T. YOU WILL REGRET IT.
THEY ARE THAT BAD.
4. Consistency and creating a schedule
Nothing throws readers off like a blogger who doesn’t have a schedule and never posts when they say they will.
I get it, things happen. I’ve taken a few accidental hiatuses myself. But if you make a habit of it, people will stop trusting you, and that’s that.
5. It’s okay to not be famous
People be like, “Oh no! I’ve been blogging for 4.6 days but only have one follower, who is my mom! Oh no! I’ll never make it! Guess I’ll just quit!”
The sad truth is, it will probably take you months (maybe even a year or two) to establish a solid following. The first six months after I started, my site got maybe 30 visits a month. (And 25 of those where my family.) It’s discouraging, and many times you’ll want to throw in the towel, because what’s the point of writing this stuff if no one’s going to read it?
DON’T THROW IN THE TOWEL. Building a following takes time, and it will only happen if you stick with it.
6. Loyalty trumps numbers
Behold the golden rule of blogging: Followers are friends, not tickets to fame. A few dedicated followers who will take the time to actually read and comment are better than hoards of followers who delete your new-post notification email as soon as it appears. (I have 345 followers, but only about 80 consistently read my posts.) These are the people who will stick with you through every flubbed post and accidental hiatus. These are the people who will support you and help you grow.
Do not take these people for granted.
7. Editing matters
Do you undersand me? It’s nno fun reding something if you have too run erythin thru goggle translite frst.
8. A man who has friends must himself be friendly
PEOPLE WILL NOT FIND YOU! IF YOU DO NOT! FIND! THEM! FIRST!
FOLLOW OTHER BLOGS! COMMENT CONSISTENTLY ON THEIR POSTS! DO INSTAGRAM! DO FACEBOOK! ATTEND THE NETHERFIELD BALL!
Seriously. If you want people to know about your stuff, you’ll have to cram your presence down their throats.
(But in a non-annoying way.)
(Please, please do it in a non-annoying way. None of that “will you follow my blog please?” business.)
9. You aren’t your favorite blogger
Confession time: When I first started this thing, I wanted it to be just like a blog I followed called Writefury.
I wanted to write like Writefury. I wanted to sound like Writefury. I wanted to snark like Writefury. I wanted to have a Dallas Knight like Writefury.
This was okay. Kids, do you hear me? It’s okay to have blogging heroes and look up to people and admire their talent and learn from it.
It is not okay to try and copy them.
- You will fail.
- You will be a jerk.
- You will look like a butterknife instead of the intended Anduril replica.
People want to hear from you, and believe it or not, what you have to say can be every bit as grand as your favorite blogger. But you are not your favorite writer, and you can’t blog like them. So please don’t.
(Writefury, by the way, wrote a lovely book named Blank Mastermind which is absolutely hysterical and I highly recommend.)
(And for the record, I would still be totally okay with being her.)
10. Remember your priorities
The day will come when you find yourself holed up in your room for five hours straight, hunched over your laptop with red-rimmed eyes and cackling maniacally from the stress, when a family member calls you.
“I’M BUSY,” you screech, releasing the full Ringwraith range of your voice and proceeding to stay in your hole for the next two days.
*cough* Things I’ve definitely never done before. Definitely.
Blogging be hard, man. It be hard – not just devoting time to it, but knowing when not to devote time to it. Remembering that we have lives and families and a God outside the little 18” confines of our computer screen. And if blogging takes us too far away from those things, then perhaps, for a time, the blog needs to go.
The amount of times I use the words “blog”, “post”, and “followers” in this post (shoot, I did it again) is making me uncomfortable.
In summary: If you start a blog, be perfect at it or no one will read it.